What’s the Story?
You know the Smurfs, right? Those little blue guys, constantly happy, about three apples high? Yeah, well Gargamel finally finds their Smurf-village and stomps it to pieces. An eclectic mix of Smurfs, however, escape through a mystical portal which dumps them in Central Park. To get home, they make friends with an advertising guy and his fully-preggers wife. Hilarity ensues*.
*Results may vary.
What’s the Problem?
Why does everything have to take place in New York? Or sometimes LA, but usually New York. Even in this, a movie based on a TV show based on a comic book that were both based in the middle of a forest. Part of their charm was this simple life. Instead, this film is a fish-out-of-water story where the Smurfs don’t understand modern technology (referring to cars as “carts” for example) and causing all manner of mayhem because of it.
But we have films like that already. We don’t have many (any?) films about an entire community of happy blue critters in a forest fighting off a larger, evil force. Well, apart from Avatar…
Papa Smurf sees a chain of future events thanks to his cauldron of magic (or something. He’s a tiny blue man; how much sense did you expect it to make?) and knows from past experience that the cauldron is never wrong. Ever.
Nonetheless, when those future events start to come to pass, he tries to stop them. That’s bad enough – you know you can’t. Stop trying.
Worse, though, is that in trying to stop them, he makes them come to pass. He should be renamed Macbeth Smurf. And yes, I get that most kids seeing The Smurfs wouldn’t have read Macbeth; I’m sure it’s been done in other kids’ films, and I’m sure not going out to find which. My point is, it’s not an original idea.
Worst, though, is that the events Macbeth Smurf saw in the cauldron weren’t the whole story. They were bits and pieces that made it look all doom and gloom, and is that really fooling anyone? Did anyone in the audience think for a second that there wouldn’t be more, an extra few seconds where the tide of the battle turned (but that the cauldron left out because, I don’t know, its mother never loved it or something and it wants everyone to be depressed). Anyway, the prophecy only shows part of the picture, and leads to the wrong conclusion. Just like the Palantir in Lord of the Rings. Again, not that original, guys.
But then, original ideas are the bane of this film. Smurfs living in a forest was an original idea. Smurfs being fish-out-of-waters while in New York and causing trouble but ultimately teaching the central characters what is Really Important is not.
The word “Smurf” is a name, a way of life, a surname, a swear word, an adjective… It’s whatever they wanted it to be at that time. It’s like they needed to remind the audience “Hey – these aren’t people. They’re Smurfs! Remember! Smurfs!”
Yeah, we remember. They’re tiny and blue. It’s pretty obvious that they’re not humans.
Admittedly, the movie does sort of take the piss out of itself and the cartoon here, especially when Patrick just says “Smurf” a bunch of times and the Smurfs recoil in horror at his foul mouth. They’re aware it’s silly, and make a joke of it. But in order to make a joke of it, they play it up. They could have just used it sparingly and I doubt anyone would have complained. But eh…
Deus Ex Machina Smurf
is what Clumsy Smurf should be called. Everything he does is done to advance the story, and most of it makes me groan. He would have been the first Smurf on the cutting room floor if I’d had a say. It’s, again, that use of cliché: he’s young and naïve and makes mistakes, but he means well, and by the end you just know he will have found his feet and made a hero of himself.
Tha’s right, he’s from Scotland. Ye can tell because he has a kilt, aye? Even though he wears his little while Smurf-panties under it? Why does he do that?
And why does he exist? Grumpy Smurf does a fine job of beating up anything he needs to without becoming another overused cliché. You can tell if Smurfs had invented alcohol he’d be a wee bit pissed throughout the entire film, but because it’s a kids’ film he’s not.
Was he in the cartoon? Or did they make him for this film? Because, well, he doesn’t really fit the whole white-and-blue theme, or the rest of the place, and he doesn’t seem necessary.
In fact, the six Smurfs we’re with for the majority of the film were clearly carefully selected to tick all the boxes: there’s Clumsy/DeusExMachina, Papa, the female, Grumpy, Scotty, and Brainy. Two to take care of fighting Gargamel; Papa to know what’s going on; Smurfette to prevent it becoming a Smurf-Sausage-fest; Brainy to get them home; and Clumsy to advance the plot and Save the Day at the Last Moment.
The problem is, it’s so freaking obvious that this is what they’re for. There’s no suspense or character development.
Imagine, for instance, they didn’t have Papa, and there was no leader. All the Smurfs had to work out for themselves how to go forward with no central authority figure.
Or the two Smurfs who can beat-up a full-sized human aren’t there. They’re just tiny blue people in a huge and hostile world. Again, potential drama.
Or Brainy isn’t there to save them with intelligence.
But Papa makes all the decisions, we know the brawlers can take care of the group, and Brainy can put in with some Science if necessary.
Pitting some lesser, crappy Smurfs against Gargamel might have been interesting, but these are the crème-de-la-creme of Smurf. Of course they were always going to win.
Names (Passive-Aggressive Smurf)
They make a point in the film that the Smurf naming convention is ridiculous. I just wanted to point out that my two favourite Smurfs are Passive-Aggressive Smurf and Narrator Smurf.
What’s the Solution?
The Smurfs film should be the Smurfs. Forest. Smurfs. Gargamel. Keep big cities out of it. Keep humans out of it. Keep piss-poor prophecies out of it.
It’s actually not nearly as bad as I’d feared. It makes fun of the Smurfs conventions that the show had established, but doesn’t mock them. But it is, ultimately, a rehash of stories you’ve seen before. And if you can’t see every event in the ending from within the first five minutes, you weren’t paying attention.